How Europe waged peace after 1815
The first collective European war against terror
In The Balancers, Beatrice de Graaf rewrites the history of international security and counter-terrorism in Europe by shining a new light on the Allied Council (1815 – 1818), a forgotten, though revolutionary, political experiment. Using jointly-occupied France as their Petri dish, this small committee of ministers and ambassadors developed the first Europe-wide security framework, designed to prevent the horrors of second revolution and the rise of another Napoleon.
It was a system founded, in their eyes, on justice and reason, one that incorporated the modern ideas on government, power and rights. As an innovative collaboration, it would ultimately plant the seeds for the European Union today, but at what cost to its own citizens, and to the rest of the world?
The Allied Council transformed Europe, introducing uniform laws and regulations, standardising passports and improving infrastructure, effectively ushering in a time in which Europeans could travel and trade, easily and safely. After 25 exhausting years of war and chaos, Europeans could finally enjoy the peace they craved, as semaphores quickly relayed descriptions of ‘terrorists’ and ‘assassins’ across borders that were now jointly secured.
Equally, the Council heralded the birth of a new European order, one that was hierarchical and elitist, and underpinned by its own economic interests. In the name of peace, it employed an imperialist surveillance network of spies in an attempt to crush all phantoms of rebellion. How did the growing resentment under this enlightened occupation manifest itself? What happened when Europe began exporting these new ideals and security techniques to their growing colonies, and beyond?
Using newly discovered archival material and drawing from first-hand accounts, De Graaf brings this decisive chapter to life in all its rich detail, reconstructing the story through the people who drove it: the leaders and statesmen like Wellington, Metternich, Tsar Alexander, Richelieu and those around them, as well as the many bureaucrats, deputies, officers, diplomats, experts, managers, bankers and lawyers who served them, each with their own interests. This is a timely and essential history, one in which we are asked to inhabit the intellectual and emotional universe of the time, to approach this brief episode in all its nuances, in all its contradictions, and to recognise its far-reaching global consequences, then and today.